By Amanda Cunningham
On Friday, April 24, at 4 p.m. the Baltimore Tree Trust invites the residents of McElderry Park to attend a very special Arbor Day at Prince of Peace Church. Join us as we plant the final two street trees to complete our Trees for Public Health project. Celebrate the doubling of the local tree canopy!! Celebrate the beatification of the neighborhood with new London planes, lindens, oaks, and so many other shade-giving trees. Celebrate what we have accomplished, all working together-- greening 48 square blocks with 450 additional trees. We could not have done it without all the residents, our wonderful local partners, the hundreds of volunteers pitching in year after year, and our numerous generous funders.
Kudos to Warren Street, longtime Greening Committee Chair for the McElderry Park Community Association, who walked out of his N. Montford Street florist shop and home in 2010 and wondered, “Where did all the trees go?” Then, being an activist, Mr. Street conducted a block-by-block survey of empty tree pits. Soon thereafter, Pastor Gary Dittman of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church met Jill Jonnes and Amanda Cunningham, who had just formed the Baltimore Tree Trust. He knew Mr. Street wanted trees; the Tree Trust was looking for barren blocks to green up. Recalls Warren, “One day the Baltimore Tree Trust showed up at my door.” He had long worked with Beth Myers-Edwards of Banner Neighborhoods Community Corporation, and they, too, became vital partners, as did Sarah Lord, president of the Baltimore Forestry Board.
In January of 2011, the Baltimore Tree Trust held the first of many Working Group meetings with residents and local organizations. Arbor Day 2011 served as the official launch for the Tree Trust’s first Trees for Public Health initiative. The fifth-graders of William Paca Elementary School joined neighbors, politicians, and the Tree Trust and Forestry Board to plant the first eight trees with Charlie Murphy of TreeBaltimore and Erik Dihle, our Chief City Arborist.
That first summer, Sarah Lord and Zoe Clarkwest hit the streets with the first youth Green Team to complete an i-Tree Streets inventory. That original data on the existing 450 trees (a meager 13 percent tree canopy) has guided all the planting.
Since the fall of 2012, Amanda Cunningham, certified arborist and the Tree Trust’s Director of Programs, had led the way! Each autumn and each spring for the past three years, she has organized multiple volunteer plantings. Year by year, we moved from block to block, creating new tree pits (15,000 sq.-feet of concrete removed!!), expanding old pits, getting old stumps and dead trees removed, planting young trees, and transforming McElderry Park into a more healthful place to live. Prince of Peace Church has been a more recent but always hospitable partner, offering a gathering place for staging many of our plantings.
We look back fondly and with gratitude at the many fun tree planting days when neighbors big and small turned out to work with volunteers from Coppin State Nursing, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Towson U. fraternities, Johns Hopkins nursing, the GIVE program, Goucher College, Ayers Saint Gross landscape architects, and TreeKeepers, to name just a few. In a matter of hours, yet another grey city block bloomed with new arboreal life!
At the request of the Tree Trust, the Bartlett Tree Company provided crews of arborists at no cost to prune all 24 mature lindens that shade Library Square. The men and trucks arrived one morning in early April of 2013, climbed high up into the canopy, and after a day of clearing out dead wood, the lindens looked beautiful. Soon, Adirondack chairs came out, along with new strings of lights, and residents enjoyed cool evenings in their park.
Each summer since 2012, the Tree Trust has partnered with Banner Neighborhoods to field a local Youthworks Green Team to care for all those young lindens, London Plane, maples, hornbeams, and other hardy species. Coach Waverly Carter ran a good program, and we’re happy to see a number of those young people returning for their third summer! “Residents appreciated our work,” wrote one crew leader, “and thanked us with compliments and gave us water, Gatorade and even Rita’s ice cream!”
In 2014, the kids of Banner’s After School Art Club joined with the Tree Trust to celebrate Arbor Day in an outdoor spray-painting workshop, directed by artist Ada Pinkston. This was our second Arbor Day with Ada. In 2013, she organized a whirlwind paper bird’s nest crafts event with the tots of Dynamic Deliverance Daycare.
As we finish up our work in McElderry Park, the Tree Trust takes pride in planting and growing healthy trees. We have always engaged a paid watering service in hot months, to make sure our street trees thrive. Last summer, with help from Baltimore Station men, we fielded our own watering truck, as we will do again this summer and next. We are proud of how few of our trees have died – 27 (1/3 due to vandalism). We have quickly replaced them. We look forward to this spring, to see what a difference all those properly watered trees are making!
And, so please do come celebrate Arbor Day on Friday April 24, 4:00 p.m. at Prince of Peace Church.